Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Break, Beethoven, and Mahler

Dear Helen, Dear John,

     I've been enjoying a month with Mahler, watching his symphonies in order during the time my heart has kept me down. Granted, I've not been able to make it all the way through any of his symphonies in one sitting because I've had to stop and rest, but I've been enjoying myself immensely all the same. Because of the many camera angles catching the musicians playing, it is almost like having free music lessons, and because it is the same orchestra playing them, after awhile you get to recognize people and it becomes exciting to see them again- almost like greeting old friends. On top of that, the music itself has been filling my mind and soul with expansive thoughts and feelings, which has been a particular blessing.

     Earlier this week I started bleeding internally again. It's nothing I haven't dealt with before- only the location of the bleeding and its initial severity is different. And like before, I received a call first thing this morning from the doctor's office that the initial test results mean that I need to be tested for tumors and cancer. Difficult? Yes. More especially because of what it is doing to those who love me. I hate dragging them through this again. I don't understand the reasons for it, but I do know that like last time, I'm receiving hope and help to keep me calm and get me through it.

     But it does mean that something has to give, and for the time being, one of those somethings will need to be writing here.

     I'd like to begin my break with blogging with Beethoven (how's that for a mouthful? *grin*) by sharing a quote by him that I've enjoyed from the book Beethoven for Kids by Helen Bauer that I have been reading:
"Then let us all do what is right, strive with all our might toward the unattainable, develop as fully as we can the gifts God has given us, and never stop learning." 
I leave you learning, learning, learning!

Love,

Melanie

Sunday, March 11, 2012

For Cassandra

Dear Helen, Dear John,

I've been asked by Cassandra to write 11 fun facts about myself and to answer 11 questions. Cassandra happens to be one of my favorite people and someone I admire a lot, so here goes:

1. It is entirely possible that I use more of my brain than most people simply because I am missing part of mine. When my dad's neurosurgeon looked at my MRIs for the first time his first question was, "How retarded is she?" My parents were shocked by that because I was considered very bright as a child. It just goes to show that it isn't how much you have, but how you use what you have, that is most important.

2. I was accidentally left on top of a mountain in China by my study abroad group at the age of 22. After a series of misadventures I managed to rejoin my group back at the hotel, earning an A in Conversational Chinese and the respect of several people in the process.

3. I prefer eating with a salad fork instead of a standard one. I can always tell where I am supposed to sit at large family dinners because I am the only one with a small fork and a glass of water without ice.

4. I have given more music lessons than I have received. My parents sacrificed a great deal to buy a used upright piano when I was young. There was no money for lessons so I pretty much had to teach myself, picking up what I could from books and watching others. I'm not concert level, but I've learned enough to play for church and accompany friends and family while they sing. Harp is a similar but different story. A friend of mine asked if she could drop off a harp that was sitting unused in her house. She also asked me to take a few lessons with her teacher during the time she couldn't so the lessons she paid for wouldn't be wasted. She told me from the beginning that she wasn't doing it for me, that she fully expected I would use the harp to help others. I've since taught piano and harp for free to those who wouldn't have the opportunity otherwise. Often it feels like I'm practicing music without a license, but so long as the lessons help others to feel loved and to experience the joy of creating and expressing themselves through music, I figure I'm not doing any harm so I share what I can.

5. I received an unexpected email this past year asking my permission to make and distribute copies of a song I had written when I was fifteen because there were quite a few people it had touched- in Portugal. (?) Yeah, didn't see that one coming but there is a fun story behind it: My sister sang that song at her university, her accompanist liked it and kept her copy of the music, which she then played when she was at home, which would bring her brother and sister running to the piano to sing it. Apparently her brother must have taken a copy of the music with him to Portugal, where he sang it, and, one thing leading to another, people there started asking for copies of it so that they could play it and sing it and share it themselves. Pretty cool.

6. Bad things happen when I use an oven. My cakes turn into volcanoes, slime, brittle, rock (without burning and before the time is up- how does that happen?) I've even had pieces of cake remain intact after bouncing (repeatedly) when dropped. Ever had to soak a pan for three DAYS in order to get the brownies out of it? Me? Twice. I've had a string of successes with boxed muffin mix recently but most of the time, when I bake, my mom pulls me gently to the side and says, "I think you should stick to batter." Because my cakes and brownies taste just fine as batter. There must be an ogre in my oven that delights in the many ways he can mess with me!

7. I have grown up to achieve a childhood dream. When I was young there was a period of time when because of a family emergency my brothers and I were bounced around various relatives. Some of them wanted us and some of them didn't and it wasn't uncommon to think we were spending the night at one house and start getting ready for bed, only to be picked up and taken by people we didn't know well somewhere else. It was hard, and being the oldest I often got in trouble for things my little brothers did. It was during that time that a book came into my life, I don't know how, that saved me emotionally. It gave my feelings words and understanding and voice. It's not well known, it isn't a bestseller, but to this day it is a precious book to me. I decided at that time, that someday, I wanted to write a book that would do for someone else what that book had done for me. And I did. I wrote Love for Lauren for some friends of mine who were hurting. For several of them, my book did for them what Eleanor Clymer's My Brother Stevie did for me- it gave them understanding, it gave them voice.

8. I rock myself to sleep. I think I have my mom to thank for this one. She rocked me a lot when I was a baby. I didn't know that I did this until my roommate in China commented about it to me. "I can always tell when you are finally going to sleep," she said, "because you start rocking yourself back and forth. It's sweet." I'm not sure how sweet my future husband will think it is, but I do it unconsciously so how to stop it is a bit beyond me. I guess I should make marrying a sound sleeper a priority. *laughing* We'll see.

9. I can play Heart and Soul on the piano upside down with my hands crossed.

10. My best friend when I was 17 was 93. She taught me to crochet potholders. Those potholders are my family's favorite Christmas gift from me and I get requests for them regularly. One of my friends thinks my potholders are so beautiful that she's hung them in her kitchen as art and has forbidden her husband and son to touch them, which is a far cry from my own family, who, while barbecuing, has caught some of the nicest ones I've ever made on fire.

11. I'm a tangent thinker. I can actually keep myself occupied for long periods of time retracing the steps that led me to an incredibly "random" thought.

Now for Cassandra's questions:

1.  If you could live in any age (present-day included) you wanted to, which would you choose? Ultimately I think I would choose today. Never has it been so easy to learn so many things as it is right now. You have people who give math, music, and language lessons on YouTube, scores of free digitized books on the web, and an abundance of ways to communicate with people all over the world through the internet. I feel blessed every day by it and the many generous people and organizations who help to make it possible.

2. Is there a literary character you identify with? Christopher Robin.

3. The world is divided into two different kinds of people: those who plan their own funerals and those who don't. To which do you belong? The don't group. Funerals are for the ones left behind. Whatever is easiest and best for those who love me is what I want.

4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be? I've thought about that question often lately, oddly enough. What it always comes down to is that it isn't about where you are, it's about who you're with. I would want to be with those I loved, wherever they happened to be.

5. How do you manage the balance between reading and going out? Every day is a little different. I try to do the most important thing each day and allow the other things to fall into or out of my life after that. Sometimes that means I will read a lot, sometimes a little, sometimes nothing at all. Learning and understanding is a priority for me, so as long as I live in keeping with what is most important to me, reading finds its way into my life regularly, even if it is only in five minute increments.

6. What is your favorite quote? One that I try to live by is, "If you are feeling self-conscious, you are conscious of the wrong person."
    7. The eternal question: Which is better, Oxford or Cambridge? That's another question I've regularly asked myself over the course of my life. If I could study anywhere I wanted, those two are tops on my list. At this point I would probably choose Cambridge, but attending either of them would be AMAZING!

    8. Is there a song which has a special meaning to you? Many, at different times of my life, but thinking about it, Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol will always have a special place in my heart. It was googling that song that led me to Dancing on Ice and Kyran Bracken, and it was Kyran Bracken who helped me to see that it wasn't too late for me to pursue ice skating. I skated in two shows at my local rink and ice danced with several guys in the year and a half I skated and it was brilliant. More than once, Chasing Cars would play on the radio during the public skate and each time it happened, pure joy welled up inside me. It was like a little love note from God every time it happened. Even now, when I can't skate, hearing that song makes me grateful and very, very happy.

    9. What is your favorite quote? Second chance on this one... A scriptural quote I really like is from Psalm 68:6- "God setteth the solitary in families" In my family growing up, two of my aunts were actually single women with no families of their own who were adopted into ours. In our family we made no distinction. Over the course of my life, certain people have come into my life and have become my family since then. I was adopted by a New York Jewish Papa when I was in my late twenties and his widow and I have remained dear and cherished friends ever since. To me, she is family. I believe Elliott wanted that for both of us. We all need families. We all need love. It's a tremendous gift that God gives us each other.

    10. Romantic comedy or thriller? Romantic comedy. My family was in the witness protection program for 4 1/2 years. That's more than enough thriller for a lifetime for me.

    11. Why do you read? To understand.

    Technically I'm supposed to ask 11 questions of 11 bloggers but here the tired is definitely taking over. In the interest of getting this posted I'll end with some questions open to anyone who would like to answer them.

    What makes you excited to wake up in the morning? What's a talent a friend of yours has that makes you catch your breath and want to be like them? Is it more important to be with someone you can talk to or someone you can be comfortably silent with? What piece of advice has helped you most in your life? What is your proudest moment? What is the crazy dream that tugs at you and makes you restless at night?

    Living in question marks,

    Melanie